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Published 06 May 2013 12:05, Updated 22 May 2013 11:34
A still from the Greenpeace television ad targeting Coca-Cola Amatil.
Greenpeace is set to hit Coca-Cola Amatil for its opposition to a container deposit recycling scheme with a graphic television commercial linking plastic pollution to the death of wildlife.
In a parody of decades of Coca-Cola commercials, the video shows beautiful young people drinking Coke on the beach before dead seabirds start falling from the sky.
The environmental organisation plans to post the video online on Monday and will call for public donations to fund the cost of buying airtime on a commercial network.
Greenpeace communications manager James Lorenz says the organisation plans to raise as much money as possible but its initial target is about $22,000 to air the ad during Friday Night Football on Nine in Sydney.
A few months ago Greenpeace raised more than $65,000 and ran print advertisements in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Greenpeace is pushing for a national cash-for-containers deposit scheme similar to the state-based one run in South Australia since the 1970s. Consumers pay a small amount on top of the cost of the beverage that serves as a deposit until they return the bottles for recycling. Low-income earners and community groups like the Scouts often supplement their income by collecting bottles.
The beverage industry is opposed, and Coca-Cola Amatil along with Schweppes and Lion, successfully took court action to prevent a scheme in the Northern Territory.
Coca-Cola Amatil argues that a cash-for-containers scheme would be costly and undermine kerbside recycling.
Visy executive chairman Anthony Pratt, a BRW Rich 200 member whose company provides products and services to some of the biggest food and drink manufacturers in the country, also says a scheme would be bad for consumers, hurtful to business and may have adverse environmental impacts.
However, Greenpeace’s Lorenz says the evidence from South Australia and other places such as Germany and Scandinavia shows that the schemes work.
“It’s been running in South Australia for 35 years and it’s cut the amount of pollution and the amount going into landfill – it’s massively less than in other states,” Lorenz says. “You get significantly better rates of recycling than in most states of Australia and it’s massively well supported by people because it puts cash in people’s pockets for groups like the Scouts. You get a significant impact for little cost to business and no cost to government so it seems like a no brainer that it would be supported.”
The Australian Senate rejected a national scheme last year unless there is agreement among the states. Since then the Council of Australian Governments has done a cost-benefit analysis but the findings are yet to be made public.
Lorenz says Greenpeace is targeting Coca-Cola Amatil because of its market dominance – the company sells 2 billion bottles to Australia each year – and because it understood the brand to be leading the fight against container deposit schemes here and overseas.
The televison ad is designed to raise public awareness about Coca-Cola’s role in undermining container deposit schemes and Greenpeace is aiming to air it on Friday Night Football in hope of reaching NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.
Lorenz says digital channels have opened up new ways for activists to target corporations, when the issue is something that hits a nerve with the public.
“Social media really creates another channel to put pressure on a corporation . . . corporates can find themselves with a carefully-crafted Facebook presence with 10,000 people in a few hours asking them about a particular issue and the brand needs to respond quickly and honestly,” he says. “In the old days there were one-way advertisements and no way for people to talk back but now members of the public can talk to a brand at any time and in their own space about issues they are passionate about.”
Coca-Cola was yet to respond to BRW about the new advertisement at the time of going to press. Previously, Coca-Cola Amatil director of media and public affairs, Sally Loane, told BRW the company had invested $450 million in making its PET bottles more lightweight, reducing the carbon footprint of the bottles by 20 per cent, and supports the expansion of out-of-home recycling bins.
“We do not oppose recycling; we oppose container deposit taxes,” she says.
After the defeat of the Northern Territory container deposit scheme, activists started a campaign putting “out of order” stickers on Coca-Cola vending machines. Loane says this action inconvenienced customers and vending machine owners without progressing the debate, but noted it had not had much effect on sales.
Organisations like Regnan – Governance Research & Engagement and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors have called on companies to better manage environmental, social and governance risk, including the risk of being the subject of social media activism.
Coca-Cola Amatil’s Loane previously told BRW that Coca-Cola Amatil has plans in place to deal with social media protest. If this video takes off as Greenpeace anticipates, then the company will be putting them to use this week.